The Wife and I agree on many things— ketchup on hot dogs is just morally wrong, one does not gift with jewelry purchased from cardboard displays in grocery store checkout aisles, etc—but we do have our differences.
For example, I consider myself a reasonably competent human being, while she often considers me a clueless shuffling idiot who would not know to extinguish himself if he were to burst into flames. At least, such is the impression she gives me, most days.
I offer this as a sort of background to the tale I shall now impart, a tale of best intentions and strangest results and anger and confusion and rage and eventually childish petulant victorious smugness.
Friday midday, I took the daughter (our youngest) to Target for what is becoming a sort of tradition. The Wife was scheduled to work Friday night (L&D nurse, night shift, God Be Praised), so she was sleeping all day, and the daughter has no pre-school on Friday, so she and I often go to Target to eat lunch at the snack counter. We both have hots dogs and Cheetos (always Cheetos—absolutely Cheetos) and then we go shopping. Among the items The Wife mumbled that we needed (the night before, as we were cleaning dishes) was "toilet paper."
I put that in quotation marks because it is a full and accurate description of the item I was told to purchase: "toilet paper."
Being a reasonably competent human being, as I turned the cart down the toilet paper aisle I was flush with confidence that I could somehow manage to successfully purchase product with which to wipe our bottoms. Charmin Super Atomo-Mega Pack was on sale for 2 dollars off, so I tossed a zeppelin-sized bail of tissue onto the cart and muddled on.
Daughter and I get home, she watches Backyardigans as I lug in the 39 small plastic bags of groceries (Tatiana, our Russian accented checkout weasel at Target, seemed proud to put no more than two items in any bag, resulting in a wee bit of excessive packaging...). I then spend the next 45 minutes putting away the metric ton of groceries, finishing around 2:30 just as The Wife emerges from her Beauty Sleep [insert your own joke here—the ice upon which I daily skate stays thin enough already, thank you very little...], plods daintily into the kitchen, glances around, sees the 9000-pack of Charmin on the kitchen table, and says (and again i quote):
"What the fuck is this shit?"
"What say you, my dear? Did I disappoint you in some way?" I query in my always-sweet manner. [Note: The Wife would likely make up the most hideous lies about my response here, claiming that I said something like "It's toilet paper, dumbass—what does it look like?" Believe not a word of it.]
"We don't buy Charmin, stupid. We don't like Charmin."
"I wasn't aware that we cared. I kinda sorta figured that since we weren't exactly gonna treat the little paper squares with a great deal of care or respect, that in the grand scheme most all brands were equivalent."
"We hate Charmin! It smells funny and perfume-y! It's expensive! It's not as good!"
"What **do** we buy, then?"
"We're Cottonelle people, dumbass!"
Now, I want each of you to take a brief moment to gaze into your own soul and tell me, honestly, if you could ever—EVER—look at another human being and offer any remotely similar declaration. Some people will go to the mat over politics, others over religion. For The Wife, she's ready to gear up and throw down over the concrete unshakable immutable fact that We're Cottonelle People. I tried to determine if Charmin would somehow not perform the basic duties of toilet paper, but she seemed not the tiniest bit eager to have that particular discussion.
"FINE!" I scream lovingly. "Then I'll just drag my ass back to Target and exchange this clearly unusable toilet paper for the right kind, 'cuz stupid old me forgot forgot for a moment that I married a woman with A PRESCRIPTION ASS!"
[Note: The Wife then reacted in a manner which suggested that she found my lovingly offered remarks to be less than loving, but at this point I was not to be swayed from my course: We're Cottonelle People, by God, and right must be done.]
I grabbed the porta-can sized package of Charmin, found the crumpled receipt, and stomped towards the door.
"Where are you going?"
"WE'RE COTTONELLE PEOPLE! CHARMIN SHALL NE'ER SUFFICE!"
"You're seriously going to Target to exchange toilet paper? I can't believe this. It's not that big of a deal..."
THAT remark stopped me in my tracks.
"NOT THAT BIG OF A DEAL? You wake up and the first words—hell, the ONLY words—out of your pie-hole are 'you bought the wrong toilet paper-we're Cottonelle people,' and now for the last seven minutes you've stood there shrieking at me about the depth breadth and width of my failure on this particular purchase. Oh, it's a big damned deal. You've worked too hard for too long for me to not respect the bigness of this deal."
So I drove to Target to exchange the toilet paper.
Gentle readers, if you want to get some curious stares and glances, just try this some day: storm into your local Target with a homicidal gleam in your eye and a Yugo-sized crate of Charmin under your arm. The uniformed Security Guy standing guard at the entrance to Target dove headfirst behind a corral of carts, whimpering "don't shoot! I only make eight dollars and twenty-five cents an hour!"
The Service and Returns area had no other customers (or, hell, maybe they scurried for cover at the thunderous stomp of my approach...), so I set the damnable Charmin on the counter, sighed, and said that I'd like to make a return, please.
The moment of joyful levity in this entire episode occurred at this particular moment, as the blonde counter girl looked at the Charmin for a long moment, looked at me for a sec, then looked back at the Charmin.
I laughed for a moment, but stayed on-task. "Because it's wrong."
Again she looked back and forth between the toilet paper and me. "What's wrong with it? It's toilet paper?"
"Yes, but this is CHARMIN."
"We're COTTONELLE people!" I offer with understandable pride.
"What's the difference? It's toilet paper. It still... well, you know.. works, right?"
"Oh, NO!" I counter. "Charmin is for a low class of buttock. Discriminating backsides knows to hold out for the far superior performance of COTTONELLE."
[Note: as God is my witness, I am embellishing not one bit. This is the actual exchange, verbatim]
At this stage, an older black man in a Target shirt came out and stood, watching in confused disbelief. he said nothing, but I could tell he was trying to figure out just what the holy hell was up with this.
Blonde Counter Girl blinks, looks at me, looks again at the Charmin, then again at me.
"Well, did you want to make an exchange?"
"Oh, you bet my happy marriage, I do!"
So I wander back to the t.p. aisle and sprint past the Charmin stacks (noticing a slightly funny and perfume-y fragrance which I will never confess to The Wife even if she tortures me...), find a package of Cottonelle roughly equivalent to a bass boat in size, and then, using a system of rollers and pulleys, drag the carton back to the return desk. I lug the palette of butt-wipe onto the counter and smile triumphantly.
"Found what we needed!"
Blonde Counter Girl did not smile. Older Black Guy squinted in the background, shook his head in something like disgust. I waved. he turned and disappeared back through the door from whence he'd first come.
Blonde Counter girl enters some codes and numbers, scans the Charmin, enters some more codes, scans the Cottonelle, enters some more codes, then sighs and slumps. She looks at me.
"There's a price difference. The Cottonelle is more expensive."
I lean in and nod with a smile. "Because it's BETTER. How much do I owe?"
I laugh very loudly—Older Black Guy peeks around the corner to see if there's trouble—turn to the line of folks waiting behind me and nod. And I think we all agree that it's well worth that eleven cents!"
The Line of People say not a word. The hispanic grandmother right behind me sighs, loud and slow.
I count out eleven pennies, one at a time, slide them across the counter to Blonde Counter Girl. "What's the return policy on this? I ask her.
She glares up at me with a none-too-friendly look. "Returns and exchanges require a receipt, sir."
She hands me my adjusted receipt, shakes her head, and then leans to look around me. "Next in line, PLEASE?"
I decide not to question her on the fact that her "please" sounded a little more sincere, nee desperate, than normal. Instead, I breathed deep, and using my legs rather than my back, lifted the Winnebago-sized package of tissue from the counter and waddled to the door. Security Guy slowly swiveled as I passed, keeping his attention on me and his right hand somewhere near the magnum on his hip (reminding me again how much safer I feel knowing that someone who can't get a job as an ice cream truck driver can still be issued a handgun and a badge to maintain retail shopping peace and order).
As I walk back into the house, I affect my best Ricky Ricardo and shout "Loooooocy! I'm hooooooome!"
The Wife comes around the corner, drying her hair from her shower. She glances at the bail of paper, then at me. She shakes her head very much like an Older Black Guy. "Was it worth all that? A trip there and back just to change brands?" she asks, now apparently eager to distance herself from the issue she herself flamed into an inferno.
"Absolutely," I declare. "After all," I explain, dropping the pack to the floor with a thud loud enough to startle the cats. "We're Cottonelle People."
The Wife rolls her eyes and heads back to getting ready for work, leaving me to stand, hands on hips, riding a towering wave of childish petulant victorious smugness.